Friday, April 26, 2024

Grand Canyon Rattlesnake vs. Rock Squirrel

Here's a rock squirrel facing down a rattlesnake in Grand Canyon. The squirrel kept swishing his tail at that rattlesnake.

There's some evidence that they purposely heat up the base of their tails this way, to either make the heat-sensing rattlesnakes think they're bigger and more intimidating than they are or to make the rattlesnakes strike at the wrong part of the body.

This squirrel kept swishing his tail, totally ignoring me, and moving to different locations around the snake, as if he was herding it off the trail. When he finally succeeded, he went a few feet off and flopped down flat on the ground, legs splayed, as if he were exhausted.

I wondered if he had a nest he was defending. But this day, it was me he defended. The rattlesnake totally blended in with the dappled dirt (see picture 3--the scene when I first arrived). If I hadn't seen the squirrel first, I might have stepped right on or in front of the rattlesnake.

And we all know how that can end.

Amazing encounter.

This was right outside of Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I later met another backpacker who'd almost been bitten by one at his campsite at Cottonwood Campground on the North Kaibab. I believe both were the Grand Canyon Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus abyssus), sometimes called the Grand Canyon pink rattlesnake, found only here.

Just another fantastic part of my backpacking trip this week. More posts to come.

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